Sporadic violence paralyses normal life in Maharashtra

Mumbai, Jan 3 (IANS): Sporadic incidents of violence paralysed parts of Maharashtra in a day-long state-wide shutdown called by various Dalit parties on Wednesday amid tight security.

Dalit activists jumped on railway tracks, shouting slogans and waved flags to attempt rail-blockades at various stations in Thane and Palghar districts, but were prevented by the security forces.

Community members thronged Dahisar checkpost, the critical entry point to Mumbai and staged a road blockade, preventing traffic movement in both directions.

Stones were pelted at vehicles in parts of Goregaon, Jogeshwari, Powai, Bhandup, Chembur, Govandi and Andheri East in Mumbai and parts of Navi Mumbai.

Schools and colleges were open in Mumbai but most students remained absent.

Aurangabad University rescheduled exams as candidates could not make it to the centres, while internet services were suspended in the global tourist hotspot.

The University of Mumbai cancelled nine scheduled examinations.

Although many taxi-auto rickshaw unions supported the shutdown, Mumbai's suburban trains and the BEST (Bombay Electric Supply and Transport) bus services were plying -- albeit with hiccups.

Incidents of violence and blockage of rail tracks at various locations on the Western Railway (WR), Central Railway (CR) and its Harbour Line kept disrupting the suburban network at regular intervals, while only four of the 12 services of the newly-introduced air-conditioned local trains could be operated.

The dabbawalas also cancelled their services for the day.

Meanwhile, at least 40 BEST buses were damaged in stone-pelting incidents in different parts of Mumbai.

Many shops and establishments also opened in the city and suburbs but downed shutters some hours later.

The shutdown evoked greater response in mofussil areas compared to urban pockets of Thane, Nagpur, Pune and other cities.

The coastal Konkan region reported a near-total shutdown, as did the Dalit strongholds of Marathwada like Beed, Latur, Solapur, Jalgaon, Dhule, Ahmednagar, Nashik and Palghar.

The busy Mumbai-Pune highway was blocked for nearly an hour.

The Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) suspended buses in sensitive districts after 187 of its buses were damaged in Tuesday's violence.

The Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, a Dalit party headed by Prakash Ambedkar -- the grandson of B.R. Ambedkar -- which called for the 'peaceful Maharashtra shutdown', termed the shutdown as "successful".

"The shutdown has received tremendous response all over. We are satisfied with the judicial probe announced by the government and hope the truth will emerge. The government must book the perpetrators of the Koregaon-Bhim riots and the death of a youth for murder charges," Ambedkar said.

The shutdown was a fallout of Monday's riots in Koregaon-Bhima, Pune district, during the 200th anniversary celebrations of the Anglo-Maratha War of January 1, 1818.

Members of the Dalit community had gathered around the Victory Pillar erected by the British in Sanaswadi village when stone pelting started leading to the death of 28-year-old Rahul Fatangale.

The Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party blamed the BJP-Shiv Sena government in the state for security lapses that led to the violence.


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